A Meeting of Entrepreneurs

May 18th, 2007

A year ago, I was approached about using my upcoming book as a basis of an entrepreneurs’ exchange. At the time, I had been writing for several years and had more to go. Eight months later, I was approached again. Last month we met with a small group over wine and cheese to introduce the idea.

We are extending another invitation. I polled participants from the first meeting and found their interest largely matched my expectations:

– No one wanted a prescriptive course
– The question is not how, but why
– Diverse participants but shared entrepreneurial characteristics
– Professionally led discussion
– Author participation
– The advantage of early exposure

Personally, I would not have gone to an exchange group. I had no interest in seeing how others would run my business, nor did I have any interest in having someone point out all the ways I fell short. I make my own mistakes. Surely others would not make them. But then the mistakes they make I wouldn’t have made either. They wouldn’t learn from me and I wouldn’t learn from them.

If the exchanges included experts on various subjects, I would not have gone. I could never reach their exalted heights nor plumb the depths of their knowledge. More importantly, I didn’t need to. Telling me how to do something, it seemed to me, was more like telling me what I ought to become–though I still do not doubt that if I could become the person they proposed it would be to my advantage. It wasn’t that I did not, or do not, know of superior qualities and characteristics in others, but that I concluded a long time ago that I was the height I was despite the clear advantages of being taller.

Oddly, I am proposing a contradiction to what I have just written. Contradiction one: form an entrepreneurs’ exchange group. Contradiction two: base it on an experts view — in this case, mine.

In defense, I say that (like everyone else) what I am offering is different, and by implication better, that somehow (as an expert) my expertise is superior because I discovered what every body else missed. I did enough research in 4 years of writing to know that in some respects I do have another take. But it is not a take arising from superiority on my part; rather it is from the providential advantage of having advised several hundred owners (some of whom were entrepreneurs) who were in the midst of trouble. I also had the good fortune (or misfortune) to spend 4 years away from battle to write about what I have learned.

I also say that mine is different, because I deliberately wrote to avoid prescription. I say I deliberately wrote to avoid telling entrepreneurs what to do because I could find no way to tell people what to do without telling them to be something they aren’t. Besides, the evidence shows clearly enough that far and away the dominant factor in a business is the entrepreneur. Place on him or her prescriptions and results fail, sometimes terribly. That used to puzzle me until I realized that the difference. When entrepreneurs conform to expertise, ”best practices” if you will, it fails because expertise serves best when it conforms to the entrepreneur. It is in my book. I’ll talk briefly about it in our meeting.

That is the entrepreneurial dynamic in business without yet defining what kind of entrepreneur. For now I’ll leave the description to another time except to hint that most business owners are not entrepreneurial.

There is another thing I’ll speak of at the meeting, and that is economic volatility. We have written about it on our website. At the risk of repeating ourselves (it is a subject worthy of many repetitions), I will say that second only to misguided attempts to remake the entrepreneur, economic volatility is the major force in business trouble and in business success. Economic volatility is everything outside the business–outside of your control, so to speak. But it hits you here and there with major effect on prices, volume or credit. In fact, in all the crises forced upon a business, it was economic volatility that was the source of my clients’ adversaries’ overreactions. It is so strong that I may say that all the data about your company is accurate, but because of economic volatility it is not relevant when it matters most.

We can think of economic volatility as recessions, though in the last 20 years recessions have been few, short and shallow. But recessions are too narrow a view because it includes bubbles and bursts, and some others things as well. Tom Jr. wrote a journal on a lute [an arcane musical instrument, distant cousin to the modern guitar] purchase that demonstrates by its very smallness the subtlety and the practical reach of economic volatility. Well, in the same way the Internet and powerful PC’s have put you at the world’s doorstep, it has also put practical means of dealing with economic volatility at your doorstep.

The entrepreneurial distinction in business and economic volatility are my two favorite subjects. They run through all 9 chapters of my book. I don’t say that my book or even the impact of entrepreneurs arguing over the book will make an entrepreneur a success. Looking back over 35 years, I can’t say as I made any entrepreneur a success. I can say that my book and discussions with fellow entrepreneurs will make business easier, faster, better and safer.

Go here for information on the time and place and for registration–we only have space for 15.